Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has issued an appeal and a prayer for the victims of the hurricanes in the Caribbean, in order that "aid may quickly reach the most heavily damaged areas". After the prayer of the Angelus, he also called upon world leaders to apply themselves to "uprooting extreme poverty, hunger, ignorance, and the scourge of diseases, which especially strike the most vulnerable", on the occasion of the UN assembly next September 25.
Remembering the disasters brought by the hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike to the people of Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Texas (United States), he said "I would again like to assure all of these dear people of my special prayers for them. I also hope that aid may quickly reach the most heavily damaged areas. May the Lord grant that, at least in these circumstances, solidarity and fraternity may prevail over any other concern".
The request to world leaders that they work against poverty comes a few days before the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly, next September 25 in New York. The meeting is intended to assess the progress made on the objectives established in the Millennium Declaration, September 8, 2000. Addressing the "leaders of all the countries of the world", the pontiff asked that "the necessary measures be taken and applied courageously in order to uproot extreme poverty, hunger, ignorance, and the scourge of diseases, which especially strike the most vulnerable. Although such an effort requires special sacrifices at this time of worldwide economic difficulties, it will not fail to produce important benefits both for the development of nations in need of foreign aid and for the peace and well-being of the entire planet".
The reflection prior to the Marian prayer, in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo, was dedicated to commenting on today's Gospel, for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which presents "the parable of the owner of the vineyard, who at different hours of the day calls laborers to work in his vineyard" (Mt. 20:1-6a).
"One message of this parable", the pope explained, "lies in the fact that the owner does not tolerate unemployment, so to speak: he wants everyone to be busy in his vineyard. And in reality, being called is itself a form of compensation: being able to work in the vineyard of the Lord, putting oneself at his service, collaborating in his work, constitutes an inestimable reward in itself, which repays any hardship. But only those who love the Lord and his Kingdom understand this; those who instead work only for payment will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure".
Benedict XVI numbers St Matthew, whose liturgical feast is celebrated today, among these "workers in the vineyard": "Before Jesus called him", the pontiff said, "he was a tax collector, and for this reason he was considered a public sinner, excluded from the 'vineyard of the Lord'. But everything changed when Jesus, passing nearby his customs post, saw him and told him: 'Follow me'. Matthew got up and followed him. He immediately changed from being a tax collector to being a disciple of Christ. Instead of being 'last', he found himself 'first', thanks to the logic of God, which - fortunately for us! - is different from that of the world".
Another "worker" is St Paul: "St Paul, whom we are celebrating in a special way with a jubilee year, also experienced the joy of hearing himself called by the Lord to work in his vineyard. And what work he did! But, as he himself confesses, it was the grace of God working in him, the grace that transformed him from being a persecutor of the Church to being an apostle of the Gentiles. So much so, that he said: 'For to me life is Christ, and death is gain'. But he immediately adds: 'If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose' (Phil. 1:21-22). Paul understood well that working for the Lord is already a reward on this earth".
Benedict XVI did not overlook himself, and recalled that at the Mass on the very day of his election, at St. Peter's, "I was prompted spontaneously to present myself as a worker in the vineyard of the Lord".
At the end of the ceremony, the pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. The groups present entertained him with songs in German, Spanish, and Italian.